The Welsh Government were accused of an "independence agenda" by the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd this afternoon.

The row came as Counsel General Mick Antoniw laid out the timeline and objectives for the upcoming commission on Wales' future in the Union. 

The commission, to be chaired by Dr Rowan Williams and former Wales football captain Professor Laura McAllister, will have two "broad objectives", Antoniw announced this afternoon.

The first will be to "consider and develop durable options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the UK," and the second to "consider and develop all progressive principal options to strengthen Welsh democracy".

The BBC reported this morning that Welsh independence will be considered as one of those options.

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Darren Millar, Conservative MS for Clwyd West, questioned whether Professor McAllister was an appropriate choice for co-chair, as she stood as a Plaid parliamentary candidate in the early nineties. 

Millar also implied that allowing Welsh independence to be explored as part of the commission may harm the future of the Senedd. 

He said: "I'm afraid that I can see this impacting support for our Senedd in a detrimental way.

"I fear that it is something that could seriously undermine this Senedd and the support for it."

Antoniw defended Professor McAllister's appointment, calling her an "ideal co-chair", with "a reputation and credibility that runs across political parties".

The National Wales: Professor Laura McAllister was announced as co-chair for the commission this morningProfessor Laura McAllister was announced as co-chair for the commission this morning

He referenced the current BBC Director General, Tim Davie, who stood as a Conservative party candidate in the nineties.

"This is about embracing change," the Counsel General added.

"Change is coming, change is going to occur - nothing stays still forever.

"What we are looking to is a form of constitutional 'levelling up.'

"We're looking towards how we might 'take back control.'"

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James Evans, Conservative MS for Brecon and Radnorshire, accused the government of having an "independence agenda", claiming that the commission would likely be "packed with independence sympathisers".

Others were not so concerned. 

The National Wales: Plaid's Rhys ab Owen questioned whether the government had a "Plan B" if Westminster remains resistantPlaid's Rhys ab Owen questioned whether the government had a "Plan B" if Westminster remains resistant

Plaid spokesperson for the constitution, Rhys ab Owen, criticised UK Labour leader Keir Starmer's dismissal of independence, and questioned whether the Welsh Government was prepared to pursue its objectives in the face of a resistent Westminster.  

"What is the Plan B if this commission, too, is ignored?" Owen said, referencing the Thomas Commission, which recommended the devolution of policing and justice to Wales nearly two years ago. 

"Governments come, governments go, and politics changes," Antoniw responded.

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Meanwhile, Labour for an Independent Wales criticised the announcements made this afternoon, expressing concern that the commission's remit "has a commitment to the Union".

The commission will meet for the first time next month, and further announcements about the remainder of its members are expected in the coming weeks.

Antoniw says that an interim report will be made by the end of next year, and a final report published by the end of 2023.

Senedd Plenary sessions can be viewed live or on demand here

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